It’s the most wonderful time of the year. The month of August is the best and worst month of the year.
It’s a great month because everyone’s team is undefeated and there’s always some reason why this is the year.
It’s the worst month because football hasn’t started yet, and you find yourself watching the fourth quarter of a meaningless preseason NFL game just to get your fix.
Auburn is undefeated as of right now, but let's face it, Auburn fans, after last season’s disaster a good Auburn season will be defined by making a bowl game.
Putting on the Orange and Blue glasses, here are five reasons why the Tigers will be bowling at the end of the season.
1. Strong Defense
The Tigers have a solid starting cast on defense, which should keep them in most games. New DC Ted Roof brings a more aggressive scheme to the Plains. Similar to years past, Auburn fans should not be concerned about the defense based on the current head coach.
2. Offensive Play Calling
One of the reasons football on the Plains was so painful to watch for the last few years was the lack of creative play calling on offense. At times last year, it seemed like the original Techmo Bowl© had more plays, but unfortunately, Auburn didn’t have a Bo Jackson that could zig zag his way to a touchdown.
3. Running Game
Believe it or not, Running Back U is still alive. Auburn has a stable of running backs led by Mario Fannin and Ben Tate. Eric Smith has gotten praise for his play this fall as well and reports keep coming out of practice that speedster Ontario McCalebb broke yet another long run. Factor in the above-mentioned play calling and expect some big gains out of AU backs this fall.
4. Offensive Line
What became a weakness last year should once again be a strength on the Plains. Gone are the lighter, more agile linemen that Tony Franklin wanted, and in their place are the 300 pound plus road graders that fans had grown accustomed to seeing on Pat Dye field in the fall.
5. Team Mentality
The coaches are all on the same page. No more of the bickering and fighting that was seen last year on Tuberville’s staff. Chizik and his coaches are all on the same page. This has trickled down to the players as well.
A common theme from interviewed players is the togetherness of the team this year. Oh, and Auburn may have its favorite motivating factor: They’re the underdog. Sports Illustrated just gave Auburn a preseason ranking of 65th, and they aren’t the only preseason prognosticator that isn’t giving Auburn any love.
Now it’s time to take off the Orange and Blue glasses and see if there are five reasons fans should worry about whether or not Auburn can make a bowl game this year.
Chris Todd has been named the starter. That's right, the same noodle-armed QB that couldn’t get it done last year is the starter yet again.
If Todd once again can’t get the job done, then Auburn will turn to Burns/Caudle, the two guys who still aren’t good enough to beat an injured/surgically repaired/rehabbed Chris Todd. It’s either that or start a true freshman.
Auburn has roughly 75 scholarship athletes as of this fall. No, Auburn is not on probation. There are only 12 seniors, and not all of them are on scholarship. Injuries to Ziemba or Pugh on the OL or any of the starting LBs, and the Tiger’s will be scrambling to find an able backup.
Usually Auburn has four to five games that, assuming the Tigers show up, they will win. That’s not the case this year. This year you have Furman, and that’s it.
An upset-minded La Tech and Ball State would have been easy wins in the past, but the Tigers cannot afford to over look them now. Neither Mississippi State nor Kentucky will go away quietly either.
West Virginia at home and road games against Tennessee and Arkansas will be hard-fought games and will probably require some luck or a turnover to win. Barring disastrous seasons from Ole Miss, LSU, Georgia, or 'Bama, the Tigers won’t be favored in these games.
The above-mentioned scholarship numbers, attrition, and poor recruiting the past couple years have led to a lot of young players on this team. Young teams tend to make mistakes that cost them games.
It looks like at least one true freshman will start at wide receiver. I believe it was Pat Dye who said, "you’ll lose one game for every true freshman you start."
1980 Georgia and 2002 Ohio State are the only exceptions I’ve found to that rule and this Auburn team doesn’t have that kind of talent on its roster.
5. Inexperienced Head Coach
Let's face it, Chizik was a great defensive coordinator at both Texas and Auburn, but with only two years as a head coach and a 5-19 record to show for it, he needs some more experience.
Inexperienced head coaches tend to lose at least one game based on a bad play call or personnel choice, but the good ones tend to learn something from these mistakes and can make a name for themselves. Maybe Chizik can do that.
Regardless, it will take more than a year for him to have an overall winning record and that probably isn’t good for the Tigers.
Hopefully the Orange and Blue shades stay on this year and don't fall off and get stepped on like they did last year.